Sunday, March 27, 2016

MIssing the Point..

Are parents today worse than in the past, or are there just more bad parents out there?

We talk a lot in this country about the shrinking middle-class.   But I wonder sometimes if perhaps the middle-class has stayed the same size and we are just being over-run by the poor.

Some may call it racist, or perhaps elitist, or whatever, but the fact remains that the wealthiest people in this country - the most educated and most sophisticated - have the fewest children.  Meanwhile, the poor have a number of babies, and often the government ends up paying for their care.

On National People's Radio this morning, another weep-fest piece about babies born addicted to opiates.   While it is a tragic thing, one possible measure not discussed in helping these babies is perhaps that people addicted to opiates shouldn't be having babies.  They talk about doing a long-term study about the babies' health, but admit that the shitty parenting these kids are going to get in a drug-addicted home is likely to make quantifying any treatment difficult.

The problem is, the poorest and dumbest among us are reproducing at rates that are three to five times greater than the wealthiest and smartest among us.  Every major religion that caters to the poor urges them to "go forth and multiply!" and also decries the use of birth control.  But to even point this out is to be accused of racism or believing in Eugenics.   But it is fundamentally true.  As one comedian noted, it is harder to order a pizza than it is to conceive a child.  

 No one ever accidentally ordered a pizza!

In the past, poor health practices and primitive medicine (as well as war) kept the population of the poor in check, worldwide.   And in the past, wealthy families had dynasties of children.   But today, each advance in medicine means more and more people surviving to reproduce.  Populations in third world countries are expanding exponentially.  Meanwhile, in Western Countries (US, Japan, Europe) population (not including migration and immigration) is stagnating or even shrinking.

Why this is happening is an interesting question.  To some extent, the problem for wealthier and more educated people is that properly raising children has become more expensive than in the past.  If you want to have a family, you may need two incomes today, to pay for the child's care and to put them through college.   In the past, a middle-class family might have had four or even six children.  Today, most middle-class and upper-middle class families have maybe two.

Meanwhile, someone on welfare or addicted to crack has three or four, all paid for by the government.   In effect, the upper classes are subsidizing the raising of children by the lower classes.   While I have no children of my own (that I know of) I have certainly "raised" a few through my tax payments to the government.   

Thus part of the problem is an unintended consequence of a tax system - we subsidize the poor for having children, so they have them.   The middle-class has to pay the entire burden of having a child, so they have less.  It is, in a way, like the Obamacare subsidies, which give free health care to the poor, but penalize the middle-class who have to pay tens of thousands a year in premiums.  Or like food stamps, which gives free food to poor people, who in turn suffer from obesity-related illnesses.  We are paying people to have kids and get fat.

And before you get all up-in-arms about this, it is actually true that people can make a living off of having kids.   I've met the mothers who do this, and they are quite frank that having about four children is the break-even point where your government subsidies will generate enough income for you to scrape a living from the money intended to raise the kids.  Between ADC, SNAP, subsidized housing, and perhaps intermittent part-time jobs, you can end up with a fairly comfortable lifestyle, particularly if your own parents will help look after your little ones.   The worse thing, of course, would be to have a husband and father for your children, as that would mean losing benefits.

In some parts of the country, public housing projects are installing three, four, and even five-bedroom apartments and townhomes for Grandmothers who are raising their children's children.   It is pretty bizarre, to say the least.   How exactly did we get here?   And where will this take us?  That is the really scary part, and I can only hope I am long dead and gone before it all blows up in our face - if it isn't already.

Sadly, a lot of people on the Left like to make the poor out to be noble people - somehow better than us, because they are "not so greedy".    And indeed, there are decent poor people, as I have noted before, who are often victimized by a society that takes advantage of their naivete.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of poor folks who are greedier than you and me, and look at the world as something to be exploited to their own benefit by any means possible.  And such folks have been around since time began - we just notice them more because there are more of them today.

In the news today a sad story about an Easter Egg Hunt gone horribly wrong.   PEZ candy had an Easter Egg hunt, and to make things fair for all the children they tried to regulate how many eggs each kid could find, and to stage the event over three fields so that enough hidden eggs would remain for each child to find with joy.

Great idea, but you know how it turned out.   A few parents rushed into all three fields and grabbed as many eggs as possible.  In their mind, the goal was to "win" as much as possible, and it wasn't all about the kids at all, but gettin' free things!

Sadly, if you google "Pushy parents Easter egg hunt" you will see a number of such stories.  The image above was from a hunt in Sacramento.   Here on the island, the problem was so bad that they had to limit each child to three eggs each (and police parents, who tried to join in the hunt themselves) and set aside a fenced-in area for smaller children who were being knocked-over by the older kids and their parents.

Now, a lot of people will say, "Well, people today are different!  Back in the past, we never saw this uncivilized behavior!"   Oh, but we did.   We just didn't see it as much as we do today because the people who did this - unsophisticated, uneducated, poor, trashy rednecks and the like - were not as prevalent as they are today.   

When I was a kid, the same thing happened, but not as often.  On Halloween, for example, in the middle-class neighborhood, we might go out trick-or-treating and hit maybe 20 houses in one night.  It was a social event, not an attempt to "win" by getting the most candy.

My poorer friends would have their parents drive them all over town so they could bring home bags and bags of candy, often more than they could eat in a year.   To them - and their parents - Halloween was all about "winning" the most candy and getting something for free.

And it is interesting that among the poor, this instinct to compete and win is the strongest.  Maybe it is because they have so little and want so much.   But for some reason this competitive instinct applies only to winning monster truck rallys and getting free stuff.   It doesn't apply as much to getting a better job or working harder to get paid.

Of course, today, no one trick-or-treats, as it is considered "too dangerous" thanks to Panic TV.   But the same mentality we had back then is still prevalent today - only more so, as the size of the unsophisticated and uneducated underclass has expanded accordingly.

And this is why the Culture of Belligerence has expanded at the same time.  It is why SAT scores are declining as well.   We, as a country, are dumbing down, because the smart folks aren't having kids.   And that is why folks like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are so wildly popular - we are a poorer and dumber nation, and our politicians pander to that.   It is Idiocracy a century before its time.

The middle class in the USA isn't shrinking.   The poor are growing.   And there is a profound difference in the overall effect between the two trends.

* * *

NOTE:  This desire among the lower classes to "win" at things that are meaningless, or to have their children "win" at all costs extends to other areas of course.   The Little-League Dad who beats up an umpire or shouts obscenities at the young players, for example (or pick the sport, there is likely to be such a "Dad").  Parents who finish their children's homework or science projects "so they'll get a good grade" - but fail to learn anything of value.   Parents who spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on Halloween costumes for their kids, or pay for hotel rooms on Prom night.

I think the common denominator is parents who are trying to re-live their (failed) lives through their children.   I was lucky in that for the most part, my parents didn't care all that much, which in retrospect, made me more self-reliant.  Maybe that is why the millenials seem so helpless as kittens - they have had everything done for them up to this point in life.

NOTE:  Some folks, if you try to discuss this issue, accuse you of being racist or "elitist".   But poor behavior (in every sense of the word) isn't based on race, but more on social conditioning, I believe.   Look at every race on the planet - each has a share of geniuses and each a share of idiots.   Some more than others, but perhaps because of social conditions and not because of inherent racial makeup.

Now look at the people who are racists.   White supremacists (and black supremacists, and whatever) are some of the dumbest examples of their respective races.

Racism also negates personal choice which I think is far more powerful than your genetic background.  Indeed, some of the dumbest people in the world are the most successful.

I think that is why Liberals are irked by the likes of Donald Trump.   The guy is no brain trust, to be sure, but he has achieved a modicum of success (or the appearance of it) in spite of his mental handicaps.   And this drives well-educated Liberals insane.  "How can that guy make money when I have three college degrees and am still struggling?" - the answer can be found right inside that sentence.

I think what drives this need to "win" at Halloween or Easter Egg hunts is some sort of need to overcompensate.   It is a cultural value, not a racial one.  And kids brought up in this type of culture tend to follow its normative cues.

Unless, that is, they make other choices.   And some do, thankfully.

So maybe there is hope.